Roper is a small historic community nestled between Plymouth and Creswell along Hwy 64. Although primarily an agricultural community today, timber was once king and Roper was known far and wide for its cypress and white cedar shingles and lumber.
It all began in the early 1700’s when Captain Thomas Blount built a water-powered lumber mill that brought recognition to the area now known as Roper. When he died his widow remarried Thomas Lee who continued mill operations for many years resulting in the local settlement becoming known as Lee’s Mill. Lumber products were barged down Kendrick’s Creek to Mackeys and loaded on ships bound for distant ports. Lee’s Mill was known as the industrial center of the South Shore Settlements.

While most of the South was economically devastated after the Civil War, Lee’s Mill prospered on account of an industrious Union carpetbagger! John L. Roper from Pennsylvania was a Captain in the Union Army serving in southeast Virginia during the Civil War. While serving in the 11th PA Cavalry he became aware of the untapped timber wealth in that part of Virginia and northeastern, NC. After the war he moved to Norfolk, VA and began building a timber empire.

The John L. Roper Lumber Company came to Lee’s Mill in 1889 and prospered for the next 30 years. So much so that the town’s name was changed from Lee’s Mill to Roper. The population increased dramatically and new homes were built and were the first in the area to be wired for electric lights.

Today, the town of Roper is still a flourishing small town. The focus has moved from timber to agriculture. Crops grown in the area include corn, soy beans, cotton, peanuts, tobacco, watermelons, sage, strawberries, and rice as well as aquaculture. The Roper agricultural jewel is the 32,000 square foot Vernon G. James Research & Extension Center that opened its doors in 1991. Located on the NCDA Tidewater Research Station, this center houses the North Carolina State University (NCSU) faculty, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA) management, and support personnel. Research and Extension goals are primarily associated with agriculture and natural resource topics with studies involving field crops, livestock, aquaculture, horticulture, and soil & water.

A picturesque boardwalk follows Kendrick’s Creek and the adjacent Betty McCain Amphitheatre is a natural venue for concerts and dramatic presentations.

The small town of Roper is a warm, close-knit community of yesterday, poised at the crossroads of tomorrow; maintaining a close connection to the land and time-honored values, while standing ready to embrace the growth opportunities of the future.
Town of Roper History